Friday, April 7, 2023

Recap: Mandalorian Episode 22 — Guns for Hire

Folks looking for plot advancement may be disappointed. Folks who relish getting to be immersed for a weird and wacky hour in the Star Wars Universe will be thrilled.

There’s a fine line between superfluous fan service and paying homage with a well fleshed-out world with species, robots, and lore that you love. I think this episode is the former. Of course it will be (just like this entire season, honestly) divisive, but I had fun. 

I’ve seen folks complaining about how so many episodes this season have been light on plot. And while they’re not wrong, they may be kind of missing the point. Do y’all remember how this show has always been basically just a monster-or-quest-of-the-week engine? How many times has Din needed some random piece of equipment for his ship? A lot.

Fish Tales: Romeo & Juliet

We open on a Quarren ship being overtaken by Mandalorian pirates. Yep, that’s right — the Beskar armor found lodged in Gideon’s ship last week? It wasn’t a plant, it was this band of Mandalorians led by Axe Woves for hire.

Their quarry? Well, we have here a classic Romeo-and-Juliet love story — the Mon Calamari and the Quarren have traditionally been enemies. The Mon Cal’s vice-roy dad wants his son back from this love affair, and the Mandalorians, led by Axe Woves, grab him.

Sidenote: Hearing these two aquatic species with mellifluous, posh British accents kind of took me out of it. Call me old fashioned, but I like my Mon Cals with garbly, gasping-for-air, barking voices a la Admiral Ackbar — not like they’re stepping out of Savile Row with a fitted suit and carrying-an-umbrella brogue.

Bo & Din Go Looking for Mandalorians, Meet Royalty

En route to the Mando encampment on Plazir-15, Bo and Din get tractor-beamed to a docking port. A goth protocol droid & astromech unit direct them to the planetary plane train, where they’re told they can’t meet with the Mandos without approval. 

As the enter an opulent palace, a huge white door opens with a hiss, and for a brief moment, you wonder if it’s a trap — the framing is near identical to the scene in Empire when Darth Vader surprises our heros on Cloud City. 

We're treated to a long table featuring the most diverse dinner party at Star Wars i’ve ever seen — it’s got everyone! Ithorians, Sullstans! Bith! The Frog people from last season! It's Lewis Carroll's Star Wars Dinner Party, and I'm here for it.

Dave Filoni at It Again With the Guest Stars

At the head of the table are none other than Lizzo and Jack Black — playing the Duchess of Plaizir-15 and Captain Bombardier, a former Imperial and Amnesty Program graduate, respectively. Together, they rule the planet, and well, they need help. 

(But first, as an aside, this was just fun. Seeing Grogu LEAP into Lizzo’s arms for a little sardine was just wonderful, and 100% cute-overload-to-the-max. Jack Black is also delightful, gaining even more nerd cred fresh off his role as Bowser in the Mario movie.)

Before Din and Bo can meet with the Mandos, though, they have to help with Plaizir-15’s rehabilitated battle droid problem. To get started, they meet with Commissioner Helgait, played by Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future’s crackpot inventor Doc Brown himself! From him, they learn that the planet’s reprogrammed droids are going haywire and wreaking havoc. (Including a rogue hibachi droid, who starts spinning knives in his arms a la General Grievous.)

The  Hardest Working Species in the Galaxy & Recertified droids

Our heroes venture down into the belly of the planet to meet with the Ugnaughts who build and program the droids. Bo tries to address them but is flatly rebuffed. Din, on the other hand, knows this species, and addresses them as a friend of Kuiill, using their turns of phrase (I have spoken). Thanks to Din’s tact, they get the list of malfunctioning droids. See, he's not all muscle!

Their first stop is a loading dock that has a team of Certified Pre-owned Battle Droids™ carrying cargo. Din invites trouble and finds a rogue one, and gets more than he bargained for. (He didn’t have to watch those wrist rockets, though). He did, however, get saved yet again by Bo as they take the battle droid down in a city that has serious Coruscant-meets-Blade-Runner vibes.

Where Every Droid Knows Your Name

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent my entire life wondering why, at the Mos Eisley Cantina, R2-D2 and C3P0 aren’t allowed in. (“We don’t serve their kind here,” shouts Wuher the bartender.) This episode doesn’t answer that question, but it does flip the conceit on its head: We see our heroes walk into a droid-only bar called The Resistor and you can practically hear the record needle scratch as every metallic head in the place looks up at them. 

Din, who was so understanding and polite to the Ugnaughts, plays bad cop here as he threatens the bartender for information. Bo plays good cop and gets them the whereabouts of the other droids.

Solving the CSI Whodunnit of the Week

After pulling a battle droid from a robot morgue (A ROBOT MORGUE!), they learn that all the rogue droids had partaken of the same batch of nepenthe, a mecha-vitamin-enriched sort of oil kombucha for mechanicals back at the bar. And its source? Good ol’ Commisioner Helgait. 

Our duo confront him and we witness a fascinating monologue about being a Separatist, loving Count Dooku, and mistrusting the Republic, then the Empire, and now the New Republic. Still not sure what his endgame was, but Bo stops him before he can shut down all the reformed battle droids, and he’s off to exile on the planet’s moon.

In a supremely silly but sweet scene, the Duchess present Bo and Din with the key to the city, and knights — KNIGHTS! — Grogu. I didn’t know that I needed to see Lizzo tap baby Yoda on the shoulders and dubbing him a sir, but I did. I really did. 

The Transitive Property of the Darksaber

Side quest completed, Bo and Din can now go catch up with the Mandalorians. Bo challenges Axe Woves to a battle, and takes care of business. But it’s still not enough — she has to have won the Darksaber in battle for her people to follow as her leader. 

Din, who doesn’t like the damn thing anyway, proposes something: Because he was defeated by that robot eyeball a few episodes back, and Bo then defeated it — by the transitive property, the Darksaber now belongs to her.

We love a humble king and his Mandalorian royalty BFF.

The Math

Baseline Score: 6/10

Bonuses: + 3 Battle Droids! Fun cameos! Bo-Katan (finally) gets the Darksaber!

Penalties: - 1 An episode-long detour into Plaizir-15 may annoy some folks.

Nerd Coefficient: +5 Clone Wars fanatics will have a field day with this one. 

Gonk droid count: + 1 Honestly, there should have been more in the droid bar, they work hard and probably play hard.

POSTED BY: Haley Zapal, new NoaF contributor and lawyer-turned-copywriter living in Atlanta, Georgia. A co-host of Hugo-nominated podcast Hugo, Girl!, she posts on Instagram as @cestlahaley. She loves nautical fiction, bland white cheeses, growing corn and giving them pun names like Timothee Chalamaize.